Sixteen percent of Moroccan women in their early twenties were married under the age of 18, compared to only 2 percent in neighboring Algeria, according to 2010 UNICEF data.
“The law doesn’t give any guidance of what an exceptional reason would be,” she said, “so there are lots of different reasons why judges are authorizing underage marriages.If she is pregnant, or if she is dating, or seeing some boy, or having sex with him, they are saving family honor and avoiding scandal.” According to women’s rights advocates, in many cases, judges also grant permission with the idea of saving a girl from poverty.“When parents come in they explain they have four children, for example, and they want to get rid of their daughter,” said Maghanoui.The daughter of Rachida Diani, who helps her mom around the house in Rabat, Morocco. Unlike her brothers, she rarely leaves the house to play outside.(William Matsuda/Global Post) RABAT, Morocco — Salima Dakani has a bruised right hand, two children, and nowhere to sleep tonight.
She is only 19, but she bears the weight of a woman who says she has spent years tortured by a man addicted to drugs and violence, a man chosen for her by parents who believed marriage was the best option for their daughter, an alternative to a life of poverty. Now, after a four-year marriage to a man she says kept her locked inside for weeks at a time, beating and electrocuting her until she couldn’t move, Dakani has secretly left home with the hope of finding someone who can help her file for divorce.She is just one of many young girls married under the legal age of consent in Morocco, about twice as many as 10 years ago, according to statements by the Moroccan minister of justice.In 2004, changes to the country’s Family Code, the Moudawana, pushed for egalitarian reforms to outdated laws and set the minimum age of marriage at 18 years.But according to Fatima Maghnoui, President of L’Union de l’Action Feminine (UAF), an organization committed to helping young women find shelter, work, and healthcare in Rabat, the changes still fall short.“The spirit of the Moudawana is the equal treatment of men and women, but there are parts of the text that contradict that philosophy,” Maghnoui said.She is referring to Article 20 of the Moudawana that states a girl may be married under the age of 18 with the consent of her legal tutor, often her father, and the authorization of a family affairs judge. Though judges are only supposed to give their authorization as an exception in a “well-substantiated decision,” proposals to marry underage girls are accepted 89 percent of the time, according to a report submitted by the Democratic Association of Moroccan Women (ADFM) to the United Nations.